Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Run for the Wall

They say they are doing it for those who can’t.

Long columns of motorcycle riders are currently rolling toward Washington, DC, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. They roared past OOIDA headquarters shortly before noon on Monday.

The annual ride is to honor and remember our POWs and MIAs. When the 3,000-mile ride concludes in Washington, DC, more than 300,000 bikers are expected to have participated. On Sunday, May 25, they will take part in the Rolling Thunder Parade.

The bikers are traveling from L.A. to DC using two routes, one central (mostly along I-70) and one southern route. The I-70 route went right by our OOIDA headquarters in Grain Valley, MO. Some of us were on the roof; others were on the green grass outside the headquarters. We could – and some did – walk right up to the highway.

Having been tipped off – our copy editor had their itinerary – a large crowd of us gathered to watch and wave. Kansas City’s WDAF- TV Channel 4 joined us on the grass. Small groups of motorcycles came by, running ahead of the group. Truckers and motorists honked, and we waved at them as we waited.

Then somebody got a phone call that the bikes had rumbled through Kansas City and were only minutes away. A few of us had cameras; some had little American flags in hand. We squinted as we eyeballed the asphalt. Suddenly, we saw flashing lights on the western horizon – the police escort.

And then, here they came.

I envied the leathered riders as they waved back, raised an arm or saluted us. What an unforgettable experience it must be to participate in an event like this. On our flagpole, the American flag and our POW-MIA flag whipped proudly in the breeze. One rider pointed his gloved hand at the black flag, a flag that we fly every single day.

It was utterly spectacular. Like a kid, I wore my arm out waving.

What a rush.